Links Daily Devotional


For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food… But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12, 14, NASB)

My brother called to catch up. He was at the airport in Charlottesville, Virginia, waiting for a friend and I was on the practice putting green at a local course in Arizona, so we talked while I putted one-handed and he watched the skies.

He asked about my wife, who had what was probably a TIA (sometimes called a “mini-stroke”) a few weeks ago, and I reported that she was fine, that there were no signs of any problems or potential problems, and no worries. He asked if she was taking aspirin (he is, for a heart thing). I said she was. Then I asked if he had heard of the NNT, short for “the number needed to treat.” It’s a rating system developed by a group of physicians “to evaluate therapies based on their patient-important benefits and harms,” and it’s been in the news lately because they say that for people in my wife’s category only one person in 1,667 (.06 percent) were helped, while .03 percent were harmed. He thought that must be wrong.

I said, “I don’t really know about the NNT, but studies show that 99 percent of the people who practice their putting are helped. I’m going to publish that and call it the NNI—number needed to improve.” He liked that, but admitted that taking an aspirin a day was easier than practicing.

When we hung up I continued to think about the NNI as it relates to golf and to spiritual growth. Today’s passage from the writer of Hebrews is one of the harshest written to Christians in all of the New Testament. The “Lewis Translation” has it like this: “How many times do you have to be told this basic stuff? You ought to be teaching it yourself by now, but you still don’t own it. You can’t begin to understand the real meat of the matter because only mature Christians, people who have practiced, get it and recognize good and evil.”

If you don’t practice the basics in golf and have those down—grip, posture, alignment, tempo—how do you expect to recognize why you hit a push? And how do you expect to learn how to hit a gentle five-yard draw into a back left pin? The professionals do not ignore the basics, because they are the foundation upon which everything else is built.

And what of our practice in spiritual matters? If I don’t spend time in God’s word, how do I expect to recognize a temptation for what it is when it comes along, and how do I expect to find the way of escape? (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Aspirin may or may not help prevent a heart attack or stroke, practicing your putting may or may not lower your scores, but time in God’s word, fellowship with other believers, and prayer will definitely help your spiritual growth. Every person who practices these things is helped, and no one is harmed. That’s an NNI of 1, and that’s a number I like.

Lewis Greer
November 3, 2014
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